Finland - Supreme Administrative Court, 8 April 2011, KHO:2011:1012

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Headnote: 

The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) returned the case to the Administrative Court for reconsideration based on the applicants' change of circumstance (conversion to Christianity in Finland) which only became apparent during the appeal before the SAC.

Facts: 

The applicants, a family consisting of a mother, father and children, claimed asylum in Finland. They had, in their home town, received threats from unknown people.

The Finnish Immigration Service rejected the application for international protection and held that the applicants faced a threat from a non-state actor and that they could avail themselves of the protection of the authorities in their country of origin.

The applicants had converted to Christianity in Finland. This information was first brought to light during the appeal before the Supreme Administrative Court.

Decision & Reasoning: 

In light of the changed circumstances (the applicants conversion to Christianity in Finland), the Court assessed if the new grounds could, in principle, constitute evidence of a risk of persecution or inhuman treatment in Afghanistan. If this risk was possible, further assessment of the credibility of the applicants’ conversion must be carried out.

According to its Constitution, Afghanistan is an Islamic republic, and its religion is Islam. UNHCR guidelines (UNHCR: Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, July 2009) discuss the renouncing of Islam in Afghanistan in the same context as they discuss violations of Sharia law, and religious minorities. According to some interpretations, renouncing Islam is punishable by death. No known death penalties have been carried out in recent years.

In light of COI, it can be estimated that renouncing Islam may come to the knowledge of at least local communities and that the authorities respond to such renouncements negatively. Therefore it cannot be ruled out that renouncing Islam could lead to a need for international protection. However, a final judgment cannot be reached without assessing the sincerity of the applicants’ conversion. This can be most reliably assessed in an oral hearing.

Outcome: 

The Supreme Administrative Court overturned the decisions made by the Administrative Court and the Immigration Service and returned the case to the Administrative Court for further investigation.